In our work, we see many recent dental graduates with huge debt loads — $300,000, $400,000 or even $500,000 right out of school. They end up in our practice, often overwhelmed with how to pay down their debt. And while most of them know that their income is solid and poised to grow, they still grapple with whether it makes sense to pay off their debt, or to minimize their loan payments and, instead, set aside money for the future.
When it comes to finances, there are two important areas where a young person can actually do something that has impact on his or her future. The first is to create a budget (yes, you may groan, but it’s true — and be advised that is not the topic of this post). The second is getting smart about your credit score.
As a dental student, you may already be carrying significant student loan debt. Paying down that debt requires income — cash flow that may best be generated by opening or buying into your own practice upon graduation. New dentists and those about to graduate often feel caught in a vicious circle when they perceive that debt may deny them a practice loan and prevent them from moving forward in their career.
If you’re just starting out, chances are high there’s a substantial amount of debt in your financial picture. According to the American Dental Association, the average debt for all dental school graduates who owed money was $247,227. Over 30 percent of dental school graduates with student loans reported debt in excess of $300,000.
As a dental student, no one understands dental school better than you. Day and night, you’re focused on learning so that you can become a capable, compassionate dentist. But, for better or worse, there’s more involved with being a successful dentist than providing excellent care. Personal and practice financial management is a vital part of building a successful career in dentistry – and allowing you to lead the life you imagined.
Wondering what you can do with your money even while you don’t have any? Here are some ideas of what you can do while in dental school to set yourself up for financial success.
How long do you plan on practicing dentistry? Although we haven’t officially started our careers as licensed dentists yet, it is never too early to plan ahead for retirement. Saving your hard-earned money as a dentist after graduation doesn’t seem as glamorous as treating yourself, but saving and investing will allow you to have more control and freedom later in life. The futures of Social Security, tax rates, inflation, and the economy are uncertain, but the one thing you can control is your savings.